We’d like to introduce you to Jess Engel, one of our spectacular engineers. The purpose of this Role Spotlight interview is to give a window into what life is like as a Senior Software Engineer at Artemis. Jess shares her experience of the hiring process, daily life in her role, and the culture of her product team at Artemis.
Why did you join Artemis?
- I connected with the product and mission. We get to help farmers and workers ultimately bring food to the table! What’s better than that?
- The team. Everyone made me feel like I belonged in the interviews and when we dug into what it was really like at Artemis, it sounded like it was a healthy workplace and a great fit for my working style. I left my interviews feeling like I had fun, which was definitely a first.
What was the hiring process like? What did you like, what was missing?
The hiring process made Artemis really stand out to me. There are 3 pairing sessions for the technical interviews. You are given a prompt to build something ahead of time and asked to set it up before the interviews at home (1-2 hours max) just so you can hit the ground running when you pair code. Each pair coding session just builds off the last. We can do whatever we want together, and use any tools needed to find answers like we normally would at our job.
It was the first time a technical interview matched how I would actually be working. It gave both sides of the interview an idea of what it would actually feel like to work together, and there was time for questions at the end as well.
Nothing felt like it was missing, but now that I’ve been on the other side of interviewing, I see that we need a little more process around things like scheduling the pairing sessions. Another engineer and I are working on making some process changes. We’re bringing our suggestions to the team so we can make some changes for the next hiring round.
What did you most want to know about when you were a prospective hire?
I most wanted to know about other engineer’s thoughts on the culture, leadership and what the day to day at Artemis was like. I was already very excited about the product and mission, and I connected with the values, but I’ve seen companies that don’t live the values they proclaim. I find asking more detailed questions about what it’s really like there will give me an idea of how much they live those values.
What did you want to know more about?
I think the only thing that I wanted to know was more details about benefits, but I always feel uncomfortable asking. I never want to come across like I only care about the salary and benefits, which is silly but probably fairly common.
What does a typical day look like?
Mondays and Fridays are where we put most of our meetings – so that we have the other days to be more focused on our work. The meetings are always useful – we have company and product all hands on different days, feedback sessions with Jon the CTO every week, and regular weekly optional meetings where we discuss things like coding conventions, process changes, and product brainstorming. We also have weekly sprint planning and a very short stakeholder meeting, where folks from CS and sales get updates about where we’re at on an objective.
As for the other days… every 4 weeks our pod will be focused on bugs, otherwise we’ll be focused on our current objective. That may mean we’re building something together but it could also mean we’re researching, scoping, and building prototypes. We have a short standup to make sure no one is blocking anyone else, and that we all know our priorities for the day. Then we work! That could mean pairing or mobbing, when it makes sense, or it could mean we’re more split up and heads down. Typically it’s a mix throughout the objective.
What is the best part of your day?
The best part of my day to day at Artemis – in my opinion – is that everyone is available to help. There’s a real sense of shared ownership even between the 2 engineering pods. Everyday there will be questions in slack channels or people may DM you to see if you have time to help them with something. You can definitely turn slack off for a while if you really need focus time, but I prefer to keep it on. We’re a fully remote team but I feel very connected to everyone.
What is an example of the types of projects you work on?
The engineering team is broken up into 2 pods of 4/5 people and a principal engineer, data scientist and CTO who work outside of the pods. We work on what we call objectives – those priorities are chosen by leadership and shared with the team. The objective process is pretty great because as an engineer you’re involved from the beginning. There is a lot of brainstorming with customer support, design, and sales to make sure we understand the customer need, what’s in scope, and get ideas about how to solve it best. Oftentimes the brainstorming sessions give us more questions that we’ll need from customers, but it’ll give us a good idea of where to start. We may prototype when it makes sense, or if the objective feels pretty clear we’ll start building from there. We always have an objective leader (right now that rotates between Senior engineers) to keep the team on the same page and talk with leadership about things like beta rollouts, or how we’re doing with our timelines. I was able to lead an objective a month or two into starting at Artemis which was great.
We all work fullstack too, some objectives may be solely frontend but most include both frontend and backend work. There are people that specialize to some degree though, it’s a pretty organic process. We’ve had teammates that are most interested in mobile frontend development for instance. They may choose that work more often but they’re still working across the stack when needed.
I’ve been through 4 objectives now, all quite different. One was focused on helping with latency, another was building out a compliance report for cannabis growers in Canada, and the other two were extending current features to include more functionality that would help the farmers and workers. All of them had their own set of unique challenges, I’ve never felt bored or like I was stagnating here.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part is jumping in to help people. I don’t always do it – sometimes it’s just not the right time or my hands are full – but when it makes sense it’s so much fun. It often allows me to see a new part of the code I hadn’t seen and gives me more opportunity to work with different folks in engineering. We all learn from each other and working together like that feels great.
What are the biggest challenges you face in this position?
The technical challenges! Which is great. There are a lot of areas to explore in our codebase, and we’re always trying to make things better. Whether we’re fixing bugs or building a new feature we’re always thinking about the quality of our code and how extendable it will be in the future.
What are the skills and experiences you feel are most important for this job?
Clear communication and the ability to give and take constructive feedback comes to mind. I think people with all sorts of different skills could do well on our team, but those are essential to the way we work.
Can you tell me about your team?
We focus a lot on feedback, we have a weekly 1:1 with Jon, the CTO, and monthly sessions with a couple of people on the product team. We also get regular 1:1’s with Allison, our CEO, which is wonderful. Most of our feedback sessions are designed around our values, and many of our conversations are driven by them too.
I think another good thing to know is that you are empowered here to make change from day one. If that’s not your style that’s okay too, but that empowerment was really something I needed.
What is the culture like at Artemis?
We trust each other, and we’re open and honest. Our culture overall does align with our values very well. What you don’t necessarily get from our values is that we’re fun. We’re serious about doing good work here that makes a difference, but we laugh a lot.
What core values do you most focus on at work?
We foster an environment of respect and openness: that has to be a given. We have to allow for tough conversations sometimes because people need to be able to be heard.
We trust each other to do our work with excellence: no matter how much experience you have we all trust each other, and that builds a sense of shared ownership that motivates us and brings us together.
We default to curiosity: I never feel bad for not knowing something here, there’s a real sense of growth mindset in our culture that I appreciate, and it’s helped me grow and help others grow so much.
What’s different about working here than anywhere else you’ve worked?
We have a good balance. We work hard but we don’t overwork ourselves. We communicate and collaborate, but we make sure there is time to be heads down. We give ourselves time to brainstorm and re-adjust but when we decide we make those changes quickly. We are proud of our product and culture, and we share that ownership, but we recognize that there is more to all of us than our work. We have leadership that will actually lead but everyone is really heard and can make changes. I’m always looking for balance in my life, and I hadn’t found it in my work as much as I do here.
What would you recommend for potential future Artemis employees?
Think about what you’re looking for in a team, and what you need in your day to day. Come into the interviews understanding that you’re also interviewing us. Are we the culture that you are looking for? Come with all your questions, we’ll gladly answer them. The only other thing is to try to have some fun when pairing. I know that can be hard, technical interviews are stressful, but we aren’t trying to trick you here.